By Joe King, [email protected]

SMS Teacher Leah Jenkins plots some graphing points on a whiteboard in her classroom. (The Herald/ Joe King)

SMS Teacher Leah Jenkins plots some graphing points on a whiteboard in her classroom. (The Herald/ Joe King)

After going through her college career and earning a Master’s degree, a Seymour resident has returned to the middle school she attended to teach.

“It’s very comforting to be back at Seymour Middle School,” said Leah Jenkins. “I interviewed at several different places and it was kind of intimidating. Seymour is more like home. I came back and I saw people I knew who were willing to help me. I’ve seen students come through who I know because I know their parents or went to school with their parents. It’s a family here and it’s not like that at many other places.”

Jenkins, who is currently in her first year of teaching, earned her first degree in Classical Civilizations, but is now content to teach math at SMS because of the value of the subject.

“Math is in everything so that’s something we talk about and work with,” Jenkins said. “I spend a lot of time thinking about how math matters. Students may not think math has anything to do with how an eagle flies, but math has to do with everything we do and it’s my job to point that out to them. In any job they do, math is going to be involved in it.”

But in almost the reverse of current educational trends, Jenkins prefers traditional tactics for teaching rather than relying on technology to do her job.

“I do not have any technology in my classroom; I have a whiteboard,” she added. “I actually have the option to get an overhead projector, but the students said they preferred the whiteboard. I have marker all the way down my arms every day, but it’s worth it.”

For most, one of the more common technological math items is a calculator, but Jenkins views this device to be a crutch in some ways.

“They want you to use calculators all the time, but I’m kind of anti-calculator,” she explained.  “At the beginning of the year we did a multiplication test where students couldn’t use a calculator and a lot of them didn’t know their multiplication tables. Unless it is with big numbers that I can’t do in my head, I don’t let them use calculators. It’s sad when you see student type in three times one on a calculator. It’s just memorization and they haven’t been made to do it.”

Even though Jenkins may be asking for a little extra work from her students, she makes sure to be available if they need additional help.

“I’m here an hour early every day, so I’ll have time to talk to them one-on-one,” she said. “It’s not to fuss at them or tell them they are doing something wrong, but find out why they are having trouble or why they are frustrated so we can work around that. Everybody has a reason if they don’t like math and you have to know those barriers if you want to teach math.”

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